Concept of specificity - Does it allow the sporting industry to break the law?


What is meant by the concept of specificity?

The concept of specificity is something which is continually cited by sports and sporting governing bodies to state why the law should not apply to them. There is no defined legal term as to exactly what it means and when it comes into play but broadly speaking it is the concept of sports occupying a different specific sector than many other industries meaning that the law will not apply in certain terms.

Does sport always remain outside the arm of the law?

It is clear that sport does not always remain outside the arm of the law and football is no exception. Most notably in football the legal world has become involved in such areas as transfers of players when creating the Bosman decision and imposing the need for transfer widows and when deciding that Sky television could no longer hold a monopoly over live Premier League matches.

However, in certain scenarios sport will cite this concept of specificity to show that normal rules can be bent simply due to the special position that sport occupies.

When will this occur?

The following are three examples of when this may occur:

  • Whereabouts rule in tennis
  • Quota system to be implemented in football

Whereabouts Rule

What is the whereabouts rule?

The whereabouts rule is a rule involved in tennis which states that the top 50 ranked male and female tennis players must make their whereabouts known for the three months leading up to drugs testing.

What may be the potential legal problem with this rule?

The potential legal argument against this rule is that it may be regarded as a potential breach of the human rights of the athletes involved. For example the European Convention on Human Rights guarantees the right for respect of private and family life. It is reasonable to assume if an employer was to impose a similar rule on their employees stating they must know their exact whereabouts for an entire three months it would be likely to fall foul of the ECHR and thus the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK.

What then is the reasoning behind the rule?

The main reasoning behind the rule is that due to the specific nature of the sport of tennis and some of the problems it has had due to tennis players using performance enhancing substances it should be outside the realm of usual law in order to protect the level playing field of the sport.

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For more information on:

  • Is the whereabouts rule justified?
  • Quota system in football
  • What is the reason for this?
  • Does this constitute a breach of Article 39?
  • Is it likely that a claim would succeed?
  • Is there another example where I can see the concept of specificity in action?